Tag: blogging

An open letter to Cakexploder

I apologize; this has become very, very long and very, very disorganized. Sloppy braindump, but hopefully some jumping-off points here.

First I think there are some important terms you need to make less vague. This might begin with identifying the things you read on the internet (or in life in general) that you feel *do* give you some “tangible benefit.” Are all Twitter messages worthless? Why do you subscribe to that person specifically? Are his tweets sometimes poetic, prosaically clever, or otherwise mentally engaging? Does he sometimes link to news or products or services that you wouldn’t have otherwise heard about, things that then *do* provide “tangible benefit”? Is it your fault for subscribing, or is it his fault for providing worthless content? What about his real-life friends who follow him, won’t that tweet be of interest to them? As a figure in the public eye, then, should he be required to have two Twitter accounts, a professional and a personal one? What will you lose by unsubscribing from him entirely? Can the things of value that he does provide be found anywhere else on the internet? Reddit? Metafilter? TechCrunch? Delicious?

On the other hand, didn’t that tweet of his in fact provide value, since it is one of the things that prompted you to think about this problem and write a Tumblr post about the subject?

What qualities does a media item need to possess in order to provide you with value? Are things not worth doing if they don’t alter the way you think or behave in the future? Do things need to be valuable for longer than the time you experience them? If so, you might start with a braindump of all the things you can remember that did change your life for the better, to begin to identify the qualities that make these things unique, as well as what channels you received them from.

Where does humor stand in all this? Do humorous things, even the most humorous, permanently or even temporarily change how you think and behave, beyond the time that you are experiencing them? Is value gotten from re-telling a joke to a friend? From watching a funny movie or TV show with a friend? If so, is it because this involves relating personally, in real-life? If yes, why is meatspace interaction more valuable than internet interaction? Is it at all?

Consider this: In November of 2007, I went to London for a week. By myself. I’d never been outside of North America, and I found myself with some money, and decided it would be worthwhile. I deliberately did not construct an itinerary so that I didn’t feel dictated or obligated to see anything specific. I just wanted to be there, for a week, walking around, relaxing, reading, stopping into pubs, and taking photos.

What did that do to me? Anything of value? Frankly and truthfully, I don’t know. I know that I enjoyed it while it happened. But am I different person for it? Should I have spent the money on some class instead? If so, *why*?

I wonder if the problem is that we *think* there’s a problem. We are now, on the internet, haunted by opportunity cost, and feel more pressed to be doing something valuable than I believe we would if we didn’t have so much information available to us. Why does this change things? If a person enjoys playing backgammon, and another person enjoys watching YTMND animations, why is one person better off than the other? Backgammon doesn’t make you a better person. Yet somehow it feels more wholesome or valuable, doesn’t it? Is it the meatspace thing again? Or do we need to reconsider that maybe backgammon is worthless? What about kite flying? Kite flying is an enormous waste of time!

I suppose that kite flying has the probability of providing you with memories of being with a friend or friends, something you can look back on fondly, while you will never look back fondly on reading Twitter. Or will you?

I’m reminded of this Cat and Girl comic: http://catandgirl.com/?p=283

I read Cat and Girl every morning. As well as Overcompensating, Scary Go Round, Achewood, and xkcd. Why? Why do I read them? Are they a waste of time? I was fortunately able to remember this particular Cat and Girl, as it is relevant to this discussion, but what about all the ones that I don’t remember, or that don’t ever get linked by me in an email? What about xkcd? Is xkcd at least a small portion of the reason I switched to Ubuntu? Probably. What good is that? I get far less done in Ubuntu than in Windows because it is foreign to me, but I enjoy the challenge and the open-source philosophy. Is that worthwhile? Will the things I’m learning about Linux ever provide me with value outside of using Ubuntu? Should I care about that? Why can’t I just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it?

I find myself unable to read long articles on the internet anymore. I have so many starred items in Google Reader that I don’t want to think about it. Not to mention my “readlater” tag on Delicious. The internet has become to me what TV is to so many people. It’s just the default thing I go to when I don’t know what to do. Or out of habit. 99% of the time I’m at my computer, it’s because I just sat down there, opened Firefox, clicked my Gmail and Google Reader bookmarks, and then clicked around until there was nothing new to stimulate me. Can’t be bothered to go through my starred Google Reader items and actually sit and read one. Why not?: Because there are too many! Which one should I read, *and why*? Opportunity cost.

Maybe here’s the trouble: We have too many queues.

Have you ever fantasized about your hard drive crashing? Or your Google Reader data being lost? I have. In 2003 my laptop was stolen. It was so refreshing! Meanwhile I have copies of most Daily Show episodes from the last three years, because I used to torrent all of them. Why can’t I delete them? Why do I keep “burn Daily Shows to DVDs” on my mental to-do list? Get rid of that shit fer chrissake!!

Have you ever considered how you might go about taking your life offline? How that might look? Writing letters and making phone calls instead of emails and tweets and Facebook statuses; maybe even a REAL phone at home so that you can’t be bothered at any minute of any day, and you can speak with friends with the luxury of a big, comfortable handset against your ear? No danger of being disconnected? Learning about new music from Magnet and Fader and The Wire, buying the music that sounds interesting in them, or on their sampler CDs? Reading articles in Wired and The Economist rather than wired.com and Slate? Subscribing to The New York Times? Lying on your carpet listening to records without having to check their Last.fm, Wikipedia, and MySpace pages?

As you think about living like that, think: What on the internet is TRULY irreplaceable? I sent this valentine to somebody last week: http://www.presentandcorrect.com/item.php?item_id=195 I only knew about it because I had a subscription to ilike.org.uk in Google Reader. ilike is a blog that mostly posts pretty pictures of retro British architecture. What do I get from it most of the time? Nothing, other than the opportunity to see pretty things. But when that valentine was linked to on the blog, it affected my “real,” meatspace life, even a real meatspace relationship. What would I have sent if I hadn’t learned about it? Does this alone conclusively demonstrate that my subscription to ilike is valuable? Or does it do more harm than good? How much time do I *really* waste passing over its more boring posts in Reader’s list view? I subscribe to a lot of typography blogs too, just because I like typography. Isn’t it ok to just *like* typography, just because I like it?

I just began reading a book from 1978 or so called “Four Arguments for the ELIMINATION of Television,” which argues that the medium itself is beyond reform. As I read it, I try to imagine that the author is talking about the internet, to see whether his case applies here, too. He describes what it feels like to hear a news report of some violence in a distant continent, followed by the sports scores and a commercial for laundry detergent. This experience robs the important story of any reality it might have otherwise had. It is compartmentalized, contained, requiring no more thought than it took to hear about it. Isn’t this even *more* true on the internet, when every page has dozens and dozens of hyperlinks that are clamoring to interrupt you?

Or is *all of this* just backwards, nostalgic, techno-apocalyptic thinking? People once argued centuries ago that the PRINTING PRESS, *the god damn PRINTING PRESS*, would dumb people down. And, later, that *typewriters* would turn people into bad writers. Is this the same thing? Or is the internet so profoundly different in the way that it manipulates our attention that we do need to worry about it?

Also important to consider: Is the content itself the problem, or is it the way we relate to the content that is the problem? And how are these two things related? Is dicking around in Google Reader ok if I set aside an hour to do it in each night, with a beer or a cup of tea and some music playing? Rather than just clicking bookmarks like a rat with his paw on the cocaine button?

An article I read some time ago that I think of occasionally. It’s ostensibly about “email addiction,” but really relates to a lot of the ways we interact with the ’net.
http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2006/09/why_email_is_addicti.html

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[req] Perfect Recall

I have a big problem with keeping track of the media I consume. With all the albums I download and listen to, and all the shit I read online, I’m oppressed by this feeling that it’s all just running through me without being digested or processed. It’s over-stimulation, I end up with all this shit in my head that I don’t know what to do with. I could of course just limit my intake, but I’m addicted to media and I don’t feel like changing any time soon. Plus there’s got to be a way I can apply all this stuff.

I suppose traditionally that’s what the blog format is meant for, to just kind of shit out everything you consume in the form of links and video embeds. But really that’s more like just “taking notes” at a lecture with a cassette recorder, see what I mean? That’s just transcription. I need something to do with it all. This problem is addressed to some extent by my meticulous music library curation with foobar, and my desperate calls recently for somebody to improve on the way we manage our music.

I think a prevailing problem is that of linearity; I can write a post on here, then another post, then another, and they appear chronologically in a line. Tagging and categorizing helps to make the content on here a little less linear, but it’s still not satisfying enough. I mean what I want is to be able to have some very loose, scrapbook-y interface where I can just kind of swim through collages of things: albums, journal entries. Snapshots of various aspects of certain time-periods. Paper is free-form enough to serve a purpose like this, but notebooks aren’t searchable or easily rearrangeable, and aren’t as ubiquitous as the web.

Continue reading “[req] Perfect Recall”

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WordPress 2.7: Automatic Upgrade in Core!

According to WordPress developer Ryan Boren, the most requested WordPress feature is tentatively slated for the as-yet unscheduled 2.7 release.

This already exists in the form of a third-party plugin, which I’ve actually used successfully before on another blog. I’ve always found upgrading manually to be easy and problem-free, though incredibly tedious. Because I don’t use many plugins or alter any core WordPress files, I think automating the process will be a safe option for me, one that I’ll trust more in the hands of the core development team. Still, I’m sure I’ll wait till it’s been thoroughly tested in a couple versions before using it on this site.

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That drunk Russian space pig thing

Pervye na Lune

Click the image for the full photo montage.

I first encountered this last year on WFMU’s blog, and despite being curious of its origins, the internet has trained me to accept content without context. Funny pictures, drunk pig, pass it on. Neither the WFMU post, nor the blog they got it from even ask where this came from. But who cares — find it, blog about it, Digg it, make a YTMND about it, a YouTube spinoff, and move on to the next meme.

But there’s something clearly artistic about these images. They’re too perfect. And they depict such a caricatured past that you suspect they may have been taken recently. And, as noted in the comments that I didn’t bother to read until today, they were.

First on the Moon poster

They’re stills from a 2005 Russian mockumentary called Pervye na lune, or First on the Moon, which actually looks good, its premise approaching what you might have expected if you speculated enough about the intent of those photos. From the film’s official site, as translated by Google:

You can argue long, the Americans were on the Moon or not, but there are facts that prove convincingly : Soviet scientists were able to run the first aircraft into space as early as March 1938. Information more than convincing, and at this time Russian cosmonauts ahead of the Americans … 

It’s not on Netflix yet, but I hear it’s on Karagarga, the invite-only avant-garde film torrent tracker, which means it may soon make it to art torrents or gpod. There are also several copies on eBay, but I can’t be sure they have subtitles, or are even compatible with American DVD players.

Read more about it:

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Boing Boing Sucks

I’m starting to really resent Boing Boing for taking up so much space in my aggregator. I kept it there begrudgingly, for the dwindling handful of interesting posts that I’d probably hear about elsewhere anyway. But for every interesting post, there are ten totally boring posts about DRM, ten totally boring posts about Disney, ten totally boring posts about a useless toy, and ten totally boring posts about how to turn your lawnmower into, I don’t know, a GPS lawnmower or something. Not to mention their smug self-absorption, and their inability to separate entertainment from politics. As an example of the latter, this recent post describes an anti-Bush Robin Williams movie as “look[ing] like a hell of a movie.” In fact, the movie looks shitty, but because it lambasts politics, it is heralded by Boing Boing.

And now I’m reminded of the time during the World Cup that they said this:

I don’t even know what the FIFA World Cup is. I’m guessing it’s soccer, which I hate just as much as any other pro sport. Every editor at Boing Boing detests professional sports, and we would sooner stream a video of a crumpled up paper napkin in the corner of a room than show some jackasses running after a ball. The only time we would ever post anything about pro-sports would be to make fun of them.

Are you so self-righteous that you think we care about how much you hate sports, while at the same time you worship all things Disney fer chrissake?

And why do you force your readers to use Google to search your site, yielding unorganized heaps of results? And why do you force your readers to blog about you in Technorati-registered blogs in order to “comment” on your posts?

I’ve had enough, I’ll just have to get by without that weekly interesting post about a glowing fish or something.

I should have known I’m not alone.

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